"Our results suggest that some children who are at risk of becoming obese can be identified by their biological response to a stressor," said Lori Francis, associate professor of biobehavioral health. "Ultimately, the goal is to help children manage stress in ways that promote health and reduce the risks associated with an over- or under-reactive stress response."
Francis and her colleagues — Douglas Granger, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research at Johns Hopkins University, and Elizabeth Susman, Jean Phillips Shibley Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State — recruited 43 children ages 5- to 9-years-old and their parents to participate in the study.
To examine the children’s reactions to a stressor, the team used the Trier Social Stress Test for Children, which consists of a five-minute anticipation period followed by a 10-minute stress period. During the stress period, the children were asked to deliver a speech and perform a mathematics task. The team measured the children’s responses to these stressors by comparing the cortisol content of their saliva before and after the procedure.
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